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There’s a sweet tradition that exists among certain communities. When a person, or a family moves into a new dwelling — whether that dwelling is owned, rented, or borrowed — the occupants of the dwelling invite the community to come and bless the house. Often, a clergy person is invited to lead the event, but that isn’t always the case. Nor is it actually necessary.
What good does it do to say to the Lord, “Hear my prayer, O God”? Let’s face it, if God is not listening, then he won’t hear or respond to that request. If God is listening, then asking him to listen is unnecessary. So why bother?
As we come to the end of another year, I’d like to suggest that it’s a good time for an annual personal review – a chance to reflect in-depth about the past year and to see how God has been and might yet be at work in our life and work. Psalm 32 is a great foundational text for such a reflective process.
For several years, I have used Psalm 90 as inspiration for end of the year reflections. Once again in 2016, I’d like us to turn to Psalm 90 as we are about to wrap up a year and start a new one.
If you have a sense of déjà vu when reading Psalm 53, it’s because this psalm is virtually identical to Psalm 14. Lining up these two psalms in parallel columns, you’ll find that they differ only in a few minor details. How curious! It’s as if those who collected the psalms must have believed that the message contained in this particular poem was so important that it was worth repeating twice, almost verbatim.
Psalm 52 begins with criticism of a “mighty hero,” whom the heading of the Psalm identifies as “Doeg the Edomite” (see 1 Sam. 21-22). This warrior uses his tongue to boast of his crimes and to lie in order to destroy others. But, in time, God will “uproot” him from the land of the living.
In contrast to this uprooted tree, the psalmist is “like an olive tree, flourishing in the house of God” (52:8).
What does it mean to give thanks to God? Commonly, we give thanks to someone who has done something for us. Thanksgiving acknowledges a person for acting in a positive way. We see this sense of thanksgiving in Psalm 136.
On this Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Americans are encouraged to pause and give thanks to God. In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
In Psalm 51, David confesses his sin without holding back. He implores the Lord to forgive him and create within him a clean heart. Then David adds that God does not “delight in sacrifice” or “burnt offerings.” Yet there is a sacrifice that is pleasing to the Lord. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (51:17).
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